Animal House: ACPS Foster Appreciation Evening unites animal lovers at Fishweir Brewery

Animal House: ACPS Foster Appreciation Evening unites animal lovers at Fishweir Brewery
Animal lovers gathered at the Animal Care & Protective Services foster appreciation event held at Fishweir Brewery Nov. 24. Pamela Newby Love, an ACPS kitten foster/volunteer transporter who lives in Avondale, organized the event.

Animal Care & Protective Services (ACPS) Kitten Foster and Volunteer Transporter Pamela Newby Love, an Avondale resident, hosted a foster appreciation evening at Fishweir Brewery on Edgewood Avenue on Nov. 24. Fishweir Brewery bartender Ryan Parker said that he and the brewery owners, Broc and Stacey Flores care about animals and were pleased that Love chose to hold the event at the brewery.

A diverse group of fosters enjoyed the social and informational gathering. There were 20-somethings to retirees, animal care professionals and many other careers represented, drawn together by their shared passion for animal welfare and volunteering as fosters.  Love, an energetic 60-year-old, grew up on a rural Tennessee farm that permanently shaped her concern for animals and wildlife.

Pamela Newby Love and her husband Russell with their two rescue dogs, Ivan, a Hurricane Ivan survivor, and Jenny, who was rescued from a Fort Myers puppy mill.
Pamela Newby Love and her husband Russell with their two rescue dogs, Ivan, a Hurricane Ivan survivor, and Jenny, who was rescued from a Fort Myers puppy mill.

“I was in the dental field for 30 years in Nashville where I was also an active animal rescuer and volunteer for the local animal shelter. That’s where I first saw foster appreciation events and how well they were received.  I wanted to expand that idea here for our ACPS fosters who do so much good,” Love said. “My husband, Russell and I also want to support local businesses like the Fishweir Brewery in Murray Hill, and this was a great way to combine both ideas.”

Jen Walter, a ACPS shelter manager since 2014, attended and gave a slide presentation with updates and news from the shelter. She compared shelter animal statistics from 2007 to 2018-2019 that showed encouraging and extremely positive improvement. In 2007, the shelter animal intake was 24,243, the euthanasia rate was 19,663, owner surrenders were 5,951 and animals in foster care numbered 456. As of 2018-2019 those painful statistics had decreased down to 8,184 shelter intake animals, 663 euthanasia and 732 owner surrenders.

Most remarkably, 3,072 animals were released from the shelter to foster care, an initiative of the shelter that has successfully recruited, trained and retained a growing army of volunteer fosters. Those 3,072 animals represent fully one third of all animals that entered ACPS, who were able to go into foster care through the 2019 year. Walter said that best of all, a large percentage of those volunteer fosters found adopters for the animals in their care, a trend that dramatically impacts adoption rates.

Walter cited other causes for celebration including national recognition for the success of the shelter’s foster program in an important book published in 2019, Best Practice Playbook for Animal Shelters, by Dr. Sara Pizano. ACPS also completed a comprehensive foster manual, saw a 42% decrease in the shelter cat population and created the Conquering the Kittens Campaign to keep kittens out of the shelter.

“In 2018, ACPS took in 3,323 kittens under five months of age and in 2019, that number dropped to 2,518. That is a 24% decrease,” she said. “The strong push to define, publicize and discourage ‘kitten kidnapping’ is yielding results. We are working to encourage the public to be certain kittens are abandoned before bringing them in, when they may actually be left alone temporarily by a feral mom who will return to nurse and care for them. Secondarily, if the kitten(s) must be rescued, we ask that the rescuer attempt to care for or foster the kittens instead of bringing them to the shelter.”

Upcoming plans to further foster initiatives include a foster mentor program and/or foster teams. ACPS also plans to add additional staff coverage, although Walter acknowledged that staffing is among the greatest challenges facing city shelter budgets. Walter thanked all the fosters who she said, “extend our lifesaving capacity far beyond the number of kennels at the shelter”.

She especially thanked the non-profit group Friends of Jacksonville Animals (FOJA) for their crucial support providing supplies and volunteers above and beyond what shelter funding can cover. She also introduced and welcomed the new ACPS Foster Coordinator Nicole Newman of Riverside, who previously worked as an assistant vet tech,  and thanked the outgoing foster coordinator, Melissa Eaton Sheffield who moved back into a vet tech position.

ACPS foster volunteers donate their time and often much more, to help homeless dogs and cats by temporarily caring for them in their homes until they are ready to be placed for adoption. Fostering an animal is a basic commitment to feed and give medications if needed, which are provided. The foster agrees to socialize, nurture and take the animal to required veterinarian appointments for check-ups and vaccinations at regularly scheduled ACPS Veterinarian Clinics that are free to the foster, until it is in good health and has reached normal weight and age. Once the animal is spayed or neutered and is completely healthy, it is ready to be placed for adoption.

For more information regarding how to become a volunteer foster, visit the ACPS website, coj.net/acpsfoster or directly contact the foster department at acpsfosters@coj.net. Potential fosters can complete and submit the Foster Pet Volunteer Profile form online or in person at the shelter, 2020 Forest Street, Jacksonville, FL 32204. Shelter hours are Tuesday – Friday, 12 – 7 p.m., Saturday & Sunday, 10 – 6 p.m. The foster department hours are Tuesday – Friday, 12 – 7 p.m., Saturday & Sunday, 10 – 6 p.m. ACPS is closed on Mondays.

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

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